How Should a Sick Person Pray?

Answered by Shaykh Dr. Muhammad Abu Bakr Badhib


How should a sick person pray?


In the name of Allah, and all praise is due to Allah, and blessings and peace be upon our master Muhammad, the Messenger of Allah, his Family, his Companions, and those who follow him.

The fundamental principle of prayer is that it should be performed completely with its actions and movements of standing, bowing, standing straight, prostrating, and sitting, as is necessarily known to every Muslim. This is based on what was narrated by Tirmidhi and others from the hadith of Abu Hurayra (Allah be pleased with him), who said: I heard the Messenger of Allah (Allah bless him and give him peace) say:

“The first of the servant’s deeds for which he will be held accountable on the Day of Resurrection will be his prayers. If they are in order, then he will have prospered and succeeded, but if they are wanting, then he will have failed and lost. If anything is lacking from his obligatory prayers, the Lord (Most High) will say: ‘See if My servant has any voluntary prayers to complete what is deficient from his obligatory prayers,’ then the rest of his deeds will be judged in like manner.” [Tirmidhi and others]

And there may arise circumstances for the worshipper that necessitate not completing the movements and actions of the prayer.

First Scenario: Able to Stand

If the sick person is able to stand, then it is obligatory for him to stand, due to the verse:

“And stand in true devotion to Allah.” [Quran, 2:238]

Imran ibn Husayn reported God’s Messenger as saying,

“Pray standing, but if you are unable, do it sitting; and if you are unable to do that, do it lying on your side.” [Bukhari]

Thus, the one who is able to stand is not excused from praying standing under any circumstances, and his prayer in another state is invalid.

Imam Nawawi said:

“If one cannot stand upright, and is like one bowing, then it is correct that he stands like that, and he increases his bowing for his ruku‘ if he is able, and if he is able to stand but not to bow and prostrate, he stands and performs them to the extent of his ability.” [Nawawi, Minhaj]

An example of a sick person who is able to stand includes someone who has an injury in his hand, has undergone surgery, or has blisters, an allergy, a mild fever, or a tolerable headache.

Second Scenario: Not Able to Stand

The sick person who cannot pray standing, and has various conditions and forms:

The First Form: The patient has a temporary illness, such as one with severe fever causing extreme exhaustion that he cannot bear standing. This person should pray sitting until his illness subsides, and he is able to stand, then he returns to praying standing. Similarly, a patient with a slipped disc or herniated disc affecting the spinal vertebrae might experience times when the pain lessens, and he is then required to stand unless standing would exacerbate his condition or lead to complications, which is determined by the doctor monitoring his case. The doctor decides whether he can stand or not.

The Second Form: The patient has a chronic illness, like paralysis or an injury to the spinal vertebrae, that is not expected to heal, and he cannot stand or complete the bowing and prostration. This person prays in the condition he is able to, either sitting in a manner like on a chair or lying on his bed, and if lying down, he should direct his face towards the Qibla. In every condition he is able to maintain, he must nod for bowing and prostrating and let his prostration be lower than his bowing as much as he can.

This is for the obligatory prayers, as for the voluntary prayers, the matter is built on ease; standing is not obligatory as it is for the obligatory prayers, according to the hadith: “Whoever prays standing, it is better, and whoever prays sitting, he gets half the reward of the one standing, and whoever prays lying down, he gets half the reward of the one sitting.” [Bukhari]

We ask Allah to grant us all health and well-being, to keep us away from diseases and ailments, both apparent and hidden, and to help us perform our worship in the manner that pleases Him. It is obligatory for a Muslim not to be negligent in performing his prayers, and he should be keen to perform them completely and perfectly unless he is excused by illness, and all praise be to Allah, the Lord of the worlds.

[Shaykh] Dr. Muhammad Abu Bakr Badhib

Shaykh Dr Muhammad Abu Bakr Badhib is a prominent Islamic scholar from Yemen born in Shibam, Hadhramaut, in 1976. He received his degree in Shari‘a from Al-Ahqaf University, a master’s degree from the Islamic University of Beirut, and a PhD in Usul al-Din from Aligarh Muslim University (AMU).

He studied under great scholars such as Shaykh al-Habib Ahmad Mashhur al-Haddad, Shaykh Fadl Ba‘ fadl, Habib Salim al-Shatiri, Habib Ali Mashhur bin Hafeez, and others. He has served as the Director of Publications at Dar al-Fiqh, the former Deputy Director of Cultural Relations at Al-Ahqaf University, a former Assistant for Employee Affairs at Atiyah Iron Company, a researcher at the Sunna Center affiliated with the Dallah al-Baraka Foundation, and a researcher at Al-Furqan Foundation’s Makka al-Mukarrama and Madina al-Munawwara Encyclopedia branch.

Currently, he is a researcher at Al-Furqan Foundation’s Makka al-Mukarrama and Madina al-Munawwara Encyclopedia branch, teaches traditionally through the Ijaza system at Dar al-Fuqaha in Turkey, supervises the Arabic department at Nur al-Huda International Institute (SeekersGuidance), and is a member of the Board of Trustees of the Manuscript House in Istanbul.

His works include “The Efforts of Hadhramaut Jurists in Serving the Shafi‘i School,” “Contributions of Hadhramaut Scholars in Spreading Islam and its Sciences in India,” “Hada’iq al-Na‘im in Shafi‘i Fiqh,” in addition to verifying several books in Fiqh, history, the art of biographies, and Asanid (chains of narration).